The Texas state Senate advanced SB 2046, which would allow homeschoolers to participate in local public school University Interscholastic League (UIL) sports teams. The bill passed in a bipartisan vote of 26-5 on Monday, May 11.
SB 2046 is widely known as the “Tebow Bill,” after Heisman Trophy-winning University of Florida football player Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled, but played on his local public school team. The bill’s author, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), is recognized as a homeschooling advocate by many in the community.
“Homeschool families do an incredible job teaching their children, they pay taxes that fund these programs, and should have the same claim to participate in sports and extracurricular activities,” Taylor said in a statement to Breitbart Texas.
“Extracurricular activities provide tremendous experience for children to grow and teach important life skills. I believe that every child should be offered this opportunity,” he added.
The Tebow Bill has already passed in 29 other states. In Texas, it has been met with equal measures of enthusiasm and criticism. Supporters argue that since parents of homeschooled students still pay property taxes to fund neighborhood public school activities and facilities, they should be granted access to scholastic sports programs.
However, opponents say children who do not attend public schools should not be able to participate in campus or district-run athletic programs. The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), the largest independent teacher’s trade “association” in the United States, opposed SB 2046 on the grounds that homeschooled students “are not held to the same academic standards” as are their public school peers.
Also, while acknowledging the bill’s good intentions, a large group of homeschooling families opposed the Tebow Bill out of concerns it could lead to a “slippery slope” of regulations on homeschooling, based on criteria and time frames dictated by the public education system.
SB 2046 states that participating home-schooled students “must demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency on any nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument, including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test, and Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.”
The bill also mandates that after the first six weeks of the school year, “the parent or legal guardian of a home-schooled student participating in a league activity on behalf of a public school must periodically, in accordance with the school’s grading calendar, provide written verification to the school indicating that the student is receiving a passing grade in each course or subject being taught.”
Those requirements have become points of contention for some homeschooled parents, who are concerned that public education may well dictate the playing field in more ways than one. These parents have come together to say No2Tebow.
The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), a leader in securing and protecting homeschool freedoms for families, has been a strong supporter of the Tebow Bill. The Coalition addresses concerns over SB 2046’s requirements on its website. It argues SB 2046 is particularly beneficial to families who live in smaller or rural areas of the state, where sports team opportunities are more limited.
SB 2046 was immediately sent to the House after passing the Senate. As the 84th Legislative session winds down, it remains to be seen if the bill will be “fast-tracked” or not.
A similar companion bill already exists in the House – HB 347, by Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston), with nine co-authors. Dutton previously wrote HB 1374, the 83rd Legislature’s “Tebow Bill,” which did not make it out of the House committee in 2013.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.